You’ll need to grab a whole box of tissues before you start watching this heartbreaking queer drama from Tawainese filmmaker Cheng Yu-Chieh. This story of loss in itself is sad but set against a background where society still punishes a man for his sexuality, it’s almost impossible not to get angry as the story unfolds
Yu-Chieh deliberately makes us work to piece it all together at first until we realize that Lin (Morning Tzu-yi) is a tenant in his deceased lover Li-Wei’s (Yao Chun-Yao) apartment. Not only that but he has been the sole breadwinner of Li-wei’s diabetic elderly mother Mrs. Chou (Chen Shu-Fang) and caregiver to Li-Wei’s 9-year-old son Yo-yu (Bai Run-yin).
When it comes to Chinese New Year Mrs. Chou’s other son Li-gang (Jay Shih) comes home, ostensibly to celebrate, but in reality, he wants to talk about getting his hands on his mother’s apartment.
Mrs Chou’s health may be failing rapidly but she still has enough .wits about her to arrange for Lin’s adoption of Yo-yu. It would seem although she was initially very opposed to her son coming out as gay and leaving his wife, she has accepted the fact that Lin was a great partner to him, as he is as a surrogate father to Yo-yu.
A few months later Mrs. Chou dies and Li-gang rushes back home. However, rather than focus on mourning his mother he gets in a rage about not inheriting the apartment. When he discovers it has been left to his 9-year-old nephew who has just been adopted by Lin he runs to the Police accusing Lin of murdering his mother
Their investigation is nasty and vindictive. Gay Marriage may technically be legal in Taiwan but the reality is that authorities like the Police refuse to accept it and are still rampantly homophobic. They refuse to recognize the loving relationship that Lin had with his deceased lover, and also go out of the way to try to prove the remarkable fraternal bind between and Yo-yu is that of a pedophile.
The story has a few unexpected twists but even so we can sense that love will not conquer all in this tale just because the hero is gay. It’s a wonderfully nuanced performance by Mo Tzu-yi (as Lin) that has won him two Best Actor Awards. Mind you we may have wanted him to split one of them with the very unpretentious and talented Bai Run-yin as 9-year-old Yo-Yu.
Coming on the heels of neighboring China just announcing a new crackdown on ‘sissy men’ Cheng Yu-Chieh’s touching movie is also a wake-up call that our struggle for acceptance as a community is far from over
Dear Tenant is having its UK Premiere at QUEER EAST FESTIVAL 2021 for all future screenings ask Bohemia Media
Labels: 2012, drama, gay parenting, Queer East, Taiwanese